The Herald really really wants to uncover an expenses scandal like in the UK. Think of the fun they could have. But they’re not finding anything for two reasons: 1) our expenses system is much tighter than the UK’s 2) MPs in the UK are paid £67,000, not much by London standards, while the $131,000 a backbencher gets here is more than most of them know what to do with. That gives an incentive to play the expenses system in the UK that does not exist here. In fact, that’s reason to pay MPs well: to remove incentives for corruption and let them concentrate on their work with their income as a non-issue.
Nonetheless, the Herald is trying. Today they reveal that Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway used hire cars and accommodation when helping the Mt Albert campaign… but, um… paid for it himself:
“Mr Lees-Galloway said that on some days he went to Auckland solely to campaign. He did not claim expenses and stayed with friends.
On other occasions, he was visiting community alcohol and drug centres as part of his associate health portfolio.
He charged for accommodation only once, when the bulk of his time was spent on portfolio business.”
Next shock revelation: MP eats sausage roll at ministry function then goes to a restaurant and buys dinner with his own money.
Meanwhile, the political pressure on the public service to toe the National line continues. Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman launched an internal investigation to find out who released information in response to a Herald OIA request that suggests National’s Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi was involved in an immigration scam and paid-off his accusers. The request wasn’t approved by Coleman’s office as it should have before release. OK, procedures not followed but no big deal, not worth a public witch-hunt. Except that Coleman’s office would almost certainly have blocked release of this politically damaging information. The witch-hunt is meant to scare officials into playing along.
Secretiveness is becoming a trademark of this government; many media organisations have had OIA requests turned down for no good reason. On several occasions already the Ombudsman has reprimanded ministrial offices for blocking OIAs without cause and forced them to release information.